Children and young adults develop literacy - the ability to write, read, speak, listen, and think - by having "real" experiences with writing, reading, speaking, listening, and thinking and by getting support from more experienced literacy learners (Wells, 1981, 1986, 1990; Vygotsky, 1978). Integrating the language arts means that the elements of literacy are developed and taught with a set of common experiences, using pieces of authentic literature; these experiences involve reading, writing, speaking, listening, and thinking as they would normally be used by literacy learners.
There are many advantages to integrating the language arts. First, children learn all aspects of language by using language in purposeful situations (Halliday, 1975). As adults, we use all aspects of literacy simultaneously. By integrating the language arts for classroom instruction, we put children in situations that match the way in which they naturally learn and use language. Second, by integrating the language arts, children and young adults develop better critical thinking abilities. This is especially true when reading and writing are taught together (Tierney & Shanahan, 1991).
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